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SBD Global/June 6, 2014/People and Pop CulturePrint All
SOPHIE OGG is the senior communications manager for F1 team Williams Martini Racing. Pior to joining Williams as press officer in '10, Ogg held roles with the Formula BMW UK Championship, A1 Grand Prix, British GT and the FIA World Touring Car Championship. Ogg spoke to SBD Global about travel, relations with the press and the role of social media in F1.
On pursuing a career in F1 ...
Sophie Ogg: I always wanted to get to the top of my career, but that could have been in F1 or in racing in the USA. It was a case of taking whichever opportunity came my way. I wanted to work in motorsport first and foremost, and I have absolutely loved every job I have had along the way, but I think if I’d never achieved a role in F1 I probably would have felt that I hadn’t achieved everything I’d wanted to. F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and Williams is one of the most loved teams in the sport. I remember watching Nigel Mansell win the title in 1992 and Damon Hill in 1996, and thinking that is what I want to do. I was pretty determined that I would work up through the motorsport ranks to get to where I wanted to be -- despite my careers adviser at school telling me I needed to have a more realistic goal in life.
On the most challenging aspect of her job ...
Ogg: The nature of my job means it’s a 24/7 role. It’s impossible to ever switch off. Even on an evening or weekend off I find it hard to step away. I have always been a bit of a workaholic, but this job does become your life. It’s challenging, but it’s also one of the things that make it so rewarding because it’s not just a job. There are lows, but there are also highs and you go through them as a team. It’s something that is difficult to explain but the adrenaline rush of watching the lights go out every race day reminds us all why it is more than just a job. It’s also not only an F1 team, as my role means I have responsibility for the whole Williams Group and so even over a race weekend where the focus is on what is happening on track, there is still a great deal of activity going on with the Group or Williams Advanced Engineering that I need to be focusing on as well. I’ve also had to deal with some big personalities over the years. That is a challenge in itself.
On the F1 travel schedule ...
Ogg: It’s very hard to have a normal life. Having to miss friends and family birthdays or weddings can be difficult. I’m lucky I have a very understanding family and a partner who also travels, so that does make it easier. I also never know what timezone I’m in, so it always feels like it should be a meal time. The long hours can be hard, but having Sir Frank Williams come by your desk and thank you for working late makes it feel very worthwhile. It’s a real family atmosphere in the team and you never feel like the hours or the travel are not worth it. I’ve always said motorsport isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle.
On the impact of social media on F1 ...
Ogg: Social media is capable of creating a buzz in ways that were not possible previously. It has broken down the wall between the fans and their focal point. The direct communication allows relationships to be built that were impossible only a few years ago and the value from that flows in both directions. The launch of Williams Martini Racing earlier this year was a perfect example. As a team, we never communicated anything until the official launch, but the talk across social media was building up anticipation for months in advance. When we eventually launched in March, tweets including #WilliamsMartini reached more than 40 million people, as well as becoming the second highest trending hashtag in the U.K. #WilliamsMartini was retweeted more than 2.5 million times around the world, with activity from our official @WilliamsRacing account reaching 5.5 million people. The fact most people had already decided Martini were joining as our title partner didn’t stop the incredible interaction we had with fans, partners and media across the globe on that day.
On prioritizing media appointments ...
Ogg: It’s always difficult as all media are important, but there just isn’t the time or capacity for us to accommodate every request. We have key markets that we will look to prioritize, whether that be a driver’s local media or a region that is important to a partner of the team. We try to grant access to all media in some way, but we are never going to be able to accommodate everyone. I think as a team we have a really good relationship with the media. There are longstanding journalists who are more like friends of the team, but there are always new media coming in and we aim to make them feel just as welcome.
On her role during the race ...
Ogg: When the race starts, my role is to keep one step ahead of what is happening on track to be prepared for anything. I have constant communication with the engineers and I am always positioned in the garage, so if something happens I am there ready to react. If something happens, good or bad, it’s up to me to decide how we handle the situation and what we say from a public point of view. If we have a good result it’s simple, but if something goes wrong, that’s when it’s really a challenge.
On her favorite F1 circuit ...
Ogg: Suzuka and Singapore are my two favorites. Suzuka because it is one of the few old-school circuits remaining in F1. It’s a challenging track and great to watch F1 cars race around. I also love the atmosphere in Japan as the fans are amazing. There is always a real buzz and they are always there waving you in every morning with huge smiles on their faces. Singapore is unique as it’s a night race -- the nocturnal lifestyle the paddock lives during that week creates a totally different atmosphere.
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